Childhood Excursions Provide More Than Just Fun
Days after attending a speech at the Schomburg Center on the challenges facing adolescent boys of color, particularly in education, I was still fixated on what was said. The speech was given by Professor Pedro Noguera of the New York University Steinhardt School of Education. During his talk he emphasized the ways we should be raising minority males: teaching them about their culture, showing them who they are and, most importantly, who they can become.
Then someone asked me, as a member of a minority group from the Bronx, why I was different.
Why was I different? Why did I attend college while others I grew up with lay nefariously idle on the stoop? I thought to myself and connected back to the event. The answer was clear. I am different because of my mother or, as Noguera pointed out, because of the positive role my parents and mentors played. It just wasn’t just who my mother was, but what she did for me. She took me around New York City. While she didn’t have a lot of money, she knew there were things that she could do that would affect her kids later in life.
At age 5, like all other little boys, I wanted to be a firefighter. She quickly encouraged my career aspirations and took me to the local fire station. There one of the firemen showed us around. After being bold and pressing the gas on the fire truck, my tour, and fire-fighting career, were over.
More important were the trips to the museums and zoos. We went to the Bronx Zoo on Wednesdays, the famous free day, and would line up behind hundreds of people, mainly school kids on trips. The Museum of Natural History astonished and frightened my growing mind at the same time. I had nightmares for days after our visits to the giant blue whale in the Hall of the Aquatic Animals.
There were also trips to the beaches and parks that offered a much-needed change of scenery. While using an open fire hydrant as a sprinkler is standard for an inner-city kid like me, sometimes Brighton Beach was refreshing. Other places we enjoyed were the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, the New York City Fire Museum, and the New York Transit Museum.
These trips were all relatively inexpensive, or even free. Food was, and still is, expensive at these places, so we always packed lunch. The classic ham and cheese sandwiches on those Italian hero breads from the bodega fed my brother and me on many an excursion.
Growing up in one of the poorer areas of the city, I can attest first-hand how there are sad cases where kids never even leave their borough, or worse, their block. Places such as El Museo del Barrio and The Schomburg Center show our children that we can be more then basketball players and rappers, as Noguera noted our children need to be taught.
Sadly, many parents of minority students might not know that the places of my childhood even exist. Teachers and educators should encourage our children by pointing them and parents in the direction of these intuitions. Their exposure to these places will guide them to the principles that Noguera says will empower them for life, as it did mine. #